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Liberty’s blight plight

Published: Sat, March 24, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Township lacks funds for demolition

By Robert Guttersohn



Residents remember when Northgate Apartments drew an affluent clientele to the southern portion of the township that borders Youngstown.

“They were beautiful apartments,” said Jim Rodway, township zoning administrator.

But today, the five orange-bricked apartments that line Colonial and Northgate drives sit mostly empty. Rodway said only one person legally lives in all five units. The rest of the units are vacant, stripped and open to squatters.

After years of disrepair and zoning citations, Rodway announced at the March 12 trustee meeting that he and an inspector with the Trumbull County Health Department had requested that the health department to deem the five units — 212, 214 and 216 Colonial Drive and 3010 and 3012 Northgate — labeled as unfit for human habitation at its April 18 meeting.

The Vindicator’s attempts to reach the apartments’ owner, Colonial Group Apartments, on Friday were unsuccessful

But even if the county health board makes the designation, township officials say they have no money to raze the structures.

“We’re not like a city,” said township Administrator Pat Ungaro. “We don’t get [federal] block grant money.”

When he was mayor of Youngstown, Ungaro received up to $7 million a year in block grants, which he used to buy up abandoned mills and commercial properties after the decline in steel production.

“Townships don’t get that,” he said.

So the apartments sit vacant until people sometimes take matters into their own hands such as the Liberty Square apartments, which are commonly referred to as Naylor Lloyd apartments for the road on which they sit in the township’s northern portion.

Someone set fire to two of the five vacant and stripped units within an eight-day period in November. The state fire marshal deemed the fires arson.

Another apartment at 3006 Green Acres Drive, which is only feet away from the Northgate apartments, caught fire twice in a 12-hour span until it burned to the ground March 5. That apartment was not condemned and had three tenants, Fire Chief Michael Durkin said at the time.

Like Northgate Apartments, Liberty Square was once a thriving set of apartments that fell into disrepair. Five years ago, the county deemed them unfit for human habitation, but the township couldn’t afford to raze them.

Ungaro said it would have cost $50,000 per unit just for the required asbestos removal.

And the township found out the apartments were not eligible for the The Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a series of federal grants for demolishing or rehabilitating dilapidated structures, because they were not considered to be in a high-risk area.

The Northgate units, if condemned, are considered in a high-risk area, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but a spokeswoman from the Trumbull County Planning Commission said there are no plans for another round of NSP grants this year.

If there were, the competition for them would be steep, Ungaro said.

“The cities, they have major demolition problems in neighborhoods,” Ungaro said. “If there is money available, that’s often where it goes — where the problem is overwhelming. They have significant issues.”

In February, Ohio received $75 million after the federal government announced a $25 billion settlement with five banks involved in foreclosure fraud across the country.

According to the county planning commission, some of that money will be earmarked for demolition projects, and Trustee Jodi Stoyak is hoping Liberty will get a piece of that money.

“I jumped all over that,” she said, adding that she has been writing letters and making phone calls to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office in hopes that Liberty will get a funding share.

Until then, if the county’s health department condemns the Northgate units, Rodway plans to sit down with Liberty’s law director to determine what action the township can take on them.


1busyman(239 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

As long as the trash from the city keeps getting swept out to the burbs, because now one is building any new homes, the cancer will continue. Take a look at all the borders, the north, west and south, they all look alike. It is not that it is meant to happen. Low income families are too worried feeding, clothing and sheltering. There is nothing left over to make improvemts if they own, and don't expect the slum lords to put any money back in the property. If any place deserves affordable new housing, it is the city of Youngstown. Many of these people do not want to leave but the crime has forced them out. When a metro approach is taken to fix the core of the problem then progress can be made.

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2Miki(99 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

As the former Mayor of Youngstown, this is just to make Pat Ungaro feel at home in Youngstown North. The demolition project will NOT be able to keep up with what needs removed even with the highest taxes in Trumbull County.

Someone will find this post Offensive to! Truth does hurt. Most of Liberty has become Youngstown North.

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3PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Yes. Let's continue to be isolationists, pointing fingers and pretending we can solve our challenges as individual communities. Because that's working working out great for us.

How about we director our energy and focus on:
- Aggressive County Land Banking
- Joint Economic Development Districts
- Joint Law Enforcement Task Force Initiates & Social Service Planning
- County-Based Small Business & Mortgage Revolving Loan Funds
- Higher Education Full Scholarship Programs For Those Graduating With A 3.0 Grade Point Average Or Higher
- Stop Spending Limited Tax Dollars On New Infrastructure On The Fringes Of Mahoning & Trumbull County

I know it's easier to blame...but it won't change anything. It never has. Let's start making some real changes and move forward.

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4Miki(99 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

3 arrests at Walmart last week and none of the perps were from Liberty. Where do you think they came from Phil? Will Social Service Planning keep the criminals out? I'm sure our energy would be better spent with firearms training and long terms in jail for the criminals.

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5PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

More firearms. More incarceration. Sounds like a simple, long term plan for community stability. Dealing only with the symptoms of the bigger problems at play in a reactionary manner seems to be working.

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6PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Our manufacturing base was decimated by the corporate greed of the steel industry, by and large. It would serve you well to pick up a local history book. And you can leave your judgements of our area down south, regardless, thank you.

By the way, didn't V&M Star receive $19 million of federal stimulus money? Hasn't the city of Youngstown offered new energy companies in the city 10-year tax abatements? Hasn't Ohio's tax on natural gas and oil been one of the lowest in the nation by comparison?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

You're only here because we have a commodity you want to make billions off of. You'll be gone when it's gone. We'll still be here. We've learned our lessons from the steel era (on a number of fronts). Those mistakes aren't going to be made again.

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7PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Your first post on this thread was pure name-calling. It demonstrated an ignorance and insensitivity to the history of this region. And it was not provoked.

As a result, you perpetuate a stereotype of your industry in which people of this region are very skeptical of and do not react well to: arrogance.

I work with people in this community on a level you won't ever experience. The people here want work, educational opportunities, homeownership just like anyone else does. They have also likely been through more turmoil than most communities in the US. By calling people 'subsidized' and other childish and divisive things, you are polarized.

This is a region which is about community. That is because it has had to band together to survive the past 30 years (post-steel era). As someone not from this region, you and your industry would do well to not to cast stones here. And that's just good life advice, in general...and has been before we were both born.

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8endthismess(461 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

PhilKidd, seriously...are you for real? You don't own a single piece of real estate here in Mahoning County, not a house, garage or even a vacant lot where you can set up your grape kool aide card table stand. You, sir busy body, have not bothered to invest in Youngstown or aywhere close by. You work on MVOC's nickle while emailing and posting all kinds of personal communications to your Defend Youngstown website, all the while you are looking for ways to march around the northside (in particular) trying expose more housing carcasses, plot & scheme on how to ridicule owners who cannot meet your homeowner standards, discover and find new more elaborate arguments on how to tear down these people's houses which do not meet with your personal approval, whining about being transparent, filming public meetings left and right and yet... again....you own no real estate.... and...... neither do many of your "clanspeople" from the Wick Park Neighbohood Asscociation, which you famously refer to as WPNA. You and your clanspeople all work in self appointed "secret phone team gangs" making daily calls all day long, pestering people, calling into the city and the commissioners, whining about which houses you want torn down "right now" and which one's must be on the demo lists, "right now". Mr. Phil "Jim Jones" Kidd please put your grape kool aide card table back in your rented apartment closet. Now..Defend That.... or should I really say are you trying your best to Destroy This? And, please stop doing your "hobby lobby moonlight movement work" while someone else is paying your wages during the day. Lastly, why haven't you bought into Youngstown?

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9city_resident(528 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm not sure why property ownership makes one more credible. But, if it makes a difference, I own TWO houses in the city. I live in one, and am putting my own sweat (and a little blood :D) into restoring the other. (I'm also a member of that WPNA "clan") And, when the second house is restored, I'll sell my current house to someone who will appreciate it as much as I have.

From what I've observed over the last few years, Phil is only trying to help improve the quality of life for the people living here; to be their advocate.

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10Miki(99 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

So let's see. We give our poor, cell phones, cable, clothing, food & food stamps, subsidized transportation, subsidized housing for generation after generation of the same families. Phil wants the rest of our income to support these people. Is it all poor? No! But in many cases it’s the same people over and over. They teach their kids to live off of the system. FYI, the system is us! AT WHAT POINT do they stand on their own? Enough already!

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11PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Property: I have to agree with city_resident: I'm not sure what property ownership has to do with credibility either. I work 12-14 hours per day. I don't have a family. I simply choose not to own a house because I don't need one nor do I want to spend time maintaining one. I'd rather work longer, travel more or something else other than mowing a lawn, fixing a busted pipe or working on a leaking roof. Maybe one day I'll have time for those things but - right now - I don't. Could I afford one? Sure. I pay just as much if not more in rent than any mortgage in any neighborhood in the city. There's a lot of other people who live in my building downtown who you could childishly cast stones at as well who don't do community work like I do: business owners, attorney's, media members, hospital workers, etc. In fact, the demand for renting downtown is higher than what can be supplied at present. So, the growing residential market demand in Youngstown is my residential option. But that's true of cities across America. Welcome to 2012.

Work: My work with the community speaks for itself. If I (and others like me) weren't effective, you wouldn't even know or post about (in detail) all of things that you disapprove of (which is really just highlighting long standing problems and trying to do something about them...or organizing projects and promoting good work). We could use many more of people like myself and my 'clansmen' at the WPNA. By the way, the WPNA stands for Wick Park Neighborhood Association. That's a collection of neighborhood stakeholders...not a Phil Kidd cult (but I'm flattered you think I'm that novel and influential). And there's 45 other similar groups like it throughout the city in other neighborhoods. To that end, neighborhood groups are pretty standard in most cities. Also, I'm not the leader of the WPNA (although I did start it). I don't live in that neighborhood any longer (see above). I work with a group which is a collection of the 45 neighborhood groups I just mentioned above. It's called the Youngstown Neighborhood Leadership Council (or YNLC since you like acronyms). So, if you didn't like what I was doing with the WPNA, then this news probably REALLY p----- you off. Sorry, my nameless friend.

@UticaShale: You identified some key items (ie. agenda items above). I would like to talk more about the Land Bank & Revolving Mortgage Programs in particular (which are underway and which I know something about). Instead of typing all this out on this comment thread, please give me a call so we can discuss in more detail. Thanks. (330) 519-8712.

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12Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Don't expect someone like UticaShale to come out from his mask, PhilKidd. He's clearly betrayed himself to be the sort of person who likes to bully, is arrogant, as you mentioned, and demonstrates the terrorizing aspects of the energy industry: they're going to do what they want, when they want to, and anyone who gets in their way will be run over.

You can also see their (and other idiot commentor's) ideas about what makes a person's authority valid: ownership. They claim you don't count because you don't own a home. They believe ownership defines valid human beings whose opinions matter. They blame everything on people who are poor. And they laugh about city leaders who have given their industry money even though they didn't have to.

This is why they are only welcomed by the propertied, the monied, and the powerful. People just like them.

You actually do have some influence, though, Mr. Kidd. You should spend your time educating people about the sort of people invading this valley at the moment, waving their money flags, making promises they'll never keep. A lot of people in the region trust you. That's more power than this fool UticaShale understands.

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13PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago


Despite your arrogant tone and obviously skewed understanding of the Mahoning County Land Reutilization Corporation (a.k.a. Land Bank)...I'm still happy to answer your questions to the best of my ability. However, I must preface this by letting you know that I'm not a board member. I'm giving you the best information I can given what I know as someone who keeps informed on the land bank's status.

a. The first 80 cases of the Land Bank are currently being processed. This consists of approximately 100+ individual parcels. The board has authorized the hire of an Executive Director which who will be hired before the end of April. Currently, a staff member of the Cuyahoga County Land Bank is working with Mahoning County's board to assist with a case processing plan for 2012 and to assist the transition of the new ED.

b. I'm assuming your referring to the DTAC (Delinquent Tax Assessment Collection...which is how the Land Bank is funded). There was approximately $430K from 2011 that has been authorized for expenditure in fiscal year 2012. I'm not certain when 2012 collection and allocated. That would be a question for the Treasurer to answer (who is the Chair of the Land Bank by state law).

c. See 'b'.

d. The short answer is yes, however, development work with non-profit groups such as the YNDC is often aligned with specific neighborhood planning. However, if the partnership is logical / mutually beneficial, then, yes, I don't see why such a partnership couldn't happen (just like with any other business). However, I'm not an employee of the YNDC and can't speak for them. MVOC is not a development-based organization. It's policy and advocacy (we lobbied extensively for the establishment of the Land Bank in Columbus and well as on the county level).

e. No, and that's not point of the land bank. It's a holding & redevelopment tool based on as-needed intervention (case-by-case basis). Its greatest strength is to help to clear title much faster than the traditional foreclosure process. It also designed to provide more local control of vacant and abandoned property.

The next board meeting is this Tuesday / 12pm / Mahoning County Commissioner's Conference Room (2nd Floor, Admin Building). You should attend. I'll be there.

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14PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

@TigerLily: I didn't see / read your post until after I posted my last post. I'm sorry. Thanks for you honest assessment and kind words. I don't read Vindy.com story comments ALL that much, however, I really do enjoy reading yours when I come across them. Keep them coming.

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15PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

a. Yes, the 80 cases are proceeding through to court system at present and have end users. There are aprox 400 more cases on the 'waiting list' ready to be processed (end-user ready).

b. The $430K was collected in 2011 and has been deposited in the MCCLRC's account for 2012 operations. A 2012 collection will take place soon (but I'm not sure when...you will want to contact the Tres office regarding that timeline).

d. The Executive Director of the YNDC is Presley Gillespie. His contact information is: pgillespie@yndc.org / (330) 480-0423

e. The land bank can and will target vacant structures in time (demolition / resell of a vacant lot, rehabilitation if strategic and can yield a return on investment). However, being that it is taking on its first case load, it is focused largely on vacant parcels of land. When the new ED is hired, protocol will be established regarding how structures are addressed (ie. prioritization, x number of funds allocated for demo vs. rehab, ect).

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16truth101(20 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Great observations, comments, and insights!!! You have found the sore that makes the monkeys scratch! Don't think everyone here is as blind and ill-informed as PhilKidd. Remember - its best to avoid getting into a battle of wits with a defenseless person!

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